Welcoming 2015 @ New York City

I love to attend New York City’s ball drop event on every new year’s eve. This is the second time I attended the event and here are my beautiful and crazy experiences on the same.

Reaching Times Square
I had missed the previous year new year (2014) celebrations giving the reasons of severe coldness and bad weather. But, in fact, I was too lazy. This time, Chirag Mandot, my roommate was very enthusiastic (and he always is) to go to the new year celebrations. He motivated us all to leave our laziness and prepare for a big day. The plan was to leave early the next day, take a train to NYC in the early morning, reach Times Square by around 12 pm, wait till 6 pm, enjoy the music, see the ball drop at 12 am, and return back. I slept with a slight adventurous and majorly lazy mode.

On Dec 31, we finished our morning accomplishments and got ready. When I said “we”, I meant my lovely roommates: Chirag, and Franklin, and myself and two Indian girls: Sravanthi and Pallavi, whose souls almost always wander around our apartment. As per the weather predictions, that day was very cold (around 0 degree Celcius) and to stay alive in that horrible weather, I wore five shirts and a two-layered jacket. I wore a pair of different gloves, as I had lost one of my gloves and had found a new one somewhere on a road. We took a taxi cab to the Stony Brook LIRR (Long Island rail route) station and boarded the train in the last minute. I listened to a few romantic Kannada songs (some of the most romantic Indian film songs can be found in Kannada movies) on my mp3 player given to me by my cousin Mythili. I loved the train journey. In fact, I love any journey. Seeing people and places passing by so fast through the window panes of a train / bus is so enjoyable. A few reasons why I like it so much are: (i) I see a sheer beauty in everything, (ii) A sense of surprise you get when you see places and people for the first time, and (iii) It is an intellectual and an emotional adventure to weave stories around people you see. Finally, we reached the Penn station at around 10:30 am I guess.

I had my breakfast in the train station and we all left for Times Square. There is something beautiful in friends’ company. I had read somewhere an African proverb like this “If you want to walk fast, walk alone. If you want to walk far, walk together”. It was so true. It has so deep meaning. When we were walking, I was walking faster and most of them were slow. I said to myself “I have to slow down because of them”. But, much later, when they all left me, I realized that it is not about walking faster. It is about walking far. Though I enjoyed my day alone, it would have been much more fun if they were all there with me.

We reached Times Square at around 11:30 am I suppose. So many people everywhere. It was estimated that around 1 million people joined the celebrations. It was crowded and we had to swim among the sea of people. At Times Square, we went to the left of the huge stage that was setup for the music show. There was not enough space to move around. In front of me were a few Latino women sitting. I thought sitting is the best way to save energy and sat there for around 30 minutes reading a philosophy book from my ipad, whether I understood or not. My friends kept chatting.

At about 12 pm, all people who were present in the left of the stage, that included us, were asked to move to the right of the stage to make clear the path for the celebrities to enter. We cursed them for being unorganized and for the concern that we might not get a good spot. We followed the crowd and moved ahead. Pallavi was feeling very cold and was freezing. They all decided to go inside a nearby building to make her feel warm. I told Chirag that it will be impossible for her to stay up for 12 more hours and she must return home with someone.

I thought that Sravanthi would take Pallavi back home as both of them were roommates and we three guys like 3 idiots can continue rocking. But, they all thought otherwise and went inside a nearby building. I was very sure that once you leave a spot in Times Square you will never get it back and hence they could never come back. They were very caring and really nice. I was a total selfish jackass. But, I literally did not want to miss the once-in-a-life opportunity of celebrating the new year’s eve in NYC at Times Square. Hence, I continued my journey alone to the security entrance and went inside to get some place to stand to the right side of the steps at Times Square.

Pratheeksha
For security, the NYPD (New York Police Department) police had divided the entire area into approx 100 m x 100 m fenced area. After the length of about 100 m, there was a fence and after that some space for the police to walk around. I was pretty sure that my friends would miss the golden opportunity and would never be able to enter Times Square as generally by 12 or 12:30 pm, the entire Times Square will be filled up by people and those who come later must stand in a street far from the stages. I had to stand in my spot, on the right side of the stage and just wait (pratheeksha, in Sanskrit) for more than four hours.

Front, back, left, and right wherever I saw, I saw heads, heads of different sizes, shapes, and colors. People of different heights, ages, sex, nationality, and culture had assembled at a single place to celebrate the arrival of a new year. Several people in the crowd started pushing each other. In front of me were two groups: one group consisted of two boys and girls and another group consisted of two girls. All the girls were beautiful. One girl of group 1 started shouting at a girl of group 2 “Why are you pushing?”, to which the latter replied “You just cannot blindly yell at a person standing beside you. You need to see exactly who is pushing and only then shout”. Immediately they both started to quarrel. The way they spoke English sentences fast and the quickness in what they exchanged seemed like two warriors shooting powerful arrows at each other. I was so close to each other that I got fully immersed in their language of facial expressions. I get laugh when I see people quarrelling or fighting each other. If the two parties are beautiful girls, there is no more romantic scene than that. I love to see two beautiful girls quarrelling. As I see beautiful girls as flowers, two beautiful fighting girls seem to me like two flowers touching each other in a fight to decide who is more beautiful. Anyway, the quarrel ended in sometime and group 2 girls moved away. In one or two Earth minutes, I was brought back to planet Earth. Though I thoroughly enjoyed internally, I kept my face like a bodyguard so as to avoid myself getting beaten up publicly.

After maybe an hour of standing I went back to the farther end of our 100 m area where there was lots of empty space. Beside the area was the footpath and beside it were shops that were closed. There were a few family sitting on the sides of our area. I sat at a suitable place. I thought that I should conserve energy for the dance and should not waste it in standing which requires a lot of energy to overcome the gravitational force. For a while I had a nap too.

Once we are inside, we cannot leave the place. If we leave, we cannot return back. Hence, many people won’t drink water the previous day thinking that not having to pee is much better than controlling it. Even I did the same. Food was another problem. I was damn hungry but I could not leave the place. There were some people there serving pizza but they were shit expensive. The wait was on. I wished I had a remote to control time. Whenever required I can speedup time, slowdown time, or sometimes freeze it until the start of the performance. But, unfortunately, there was no such remote and I had to wait.

Beside me was a family of six or seven. There were two cute twin daughters of age may be 5-7. They were wrapped in warm clothes and they looked like two cute nestlings that were under the care of their father and mother birds. A sight of them would make me happy. It was severe cold and the temperature was around -1 or -2 degree Centigrade. Even after wearing heavy clothing it was difficult for me to bear the cold. I wondered how kids and old people would have felt.

Shake it off
At around 5:30 pm, slowly the performance started. I did not know the names of the singers but some of their songs were energetic and felt good. It was difficult to see the faces of the singers directly. I used my ultra high zoom Sony camera to get a few pictures of the singers. The stage was majorly constructed so as to be video recorded and for broadcasting. Hence, it was not that friendly for the audience who were near the stage.

Slowly the energy of the songs and enthusiasm of the people started increasing. Initially the crowd did not dance much. They just listened to the songs and slowly moved their heads here and there. The madness of the crowd (including me) was directly proportional to the elapsed time. Initially I just sat listening to the songs and shaking my body to the left and right. But after 7:30 pm, when the crowd showed more enthusiasm that motivated me to dance. In a couple of hours entire Times Square was seen dancing. Shit man! Have you seen anywhere an entire city dancing? That was the first time when I saw everyone dancing without any boundaries. I felt very happy seeing smiles on people’s faces. I don’t know. Whenever we see people happy it makes us happy. Though I enjoyed, I missed my friends who left me midway. If I had a lover, that moment would have been so romantic – just think – six hours of non-stop dancing. Sometimes I imagined as if I was dancing with my dreamgirl. It was a memorable experience.

In that shit cold weather, the carbon dioxide exhaled by people kept me a bit warm. But still the temperature dropped to -3 degree Celcius. As I was not a professional dancer, I was tired after a few songs. Then I would sit for a while analyzing people’s facial expressions and emotions and then return back to dance again. Some songs were soothing, few were damn rocky, and yet others were nice to hear. My favorite was shake it off (same song from different event) by Taylor Swift. I did not know her before but once I heard the songs I was blown away by the sheer energy and philosophy in it. Lights scattering everywhere, loud noises bombarding my ear drums, seeing people’s smiles, not thinking of anything in the world and just being in the present dancing without rules and shaking the entire body in all 3-D directions (famously called pattirap dance in India) was one of the most rocking moments of my life. Am-just-gonna-shake-shake-shake dance released in me both the excitement hormone and made my heart beat faster and at the same time released the exercise hormone that cooled the mind and made my heart beat slower. Dancing is always fun. The intensity only increased with every second. Color paper squares flew on air, minute pieces of gold and silver colored sheets was spread all around, and crackers were burned. Stylish hats, baby smooth gloves, and long thin balloons were distributed to thousands of people from a company. Whenever police went out, people jumped the fence and started dancing on the footpath and again when the police came, the people would return. It was fun to see.

Ball drop
The last stages of the performance were Welcome to New York and Shake it off I believe. The ball drop time was nearing. From the place I stood, I was not able to see the building where the 6-ton electronic ball was lifted. The count down 10, 9, 8, … began and people screamed. Before one could realize, the time went really fast and the ball dropped. Lots of crackers were burned, color papers were thrown, balloons were released, thousands of pictures were taken with flashes and with all those hifi setting we welcomed the new year 2015 in the New York City.

Free hugs
In 2012, I had tried it for the first time and had enjoyed a lot. I was very eager to do it again but unfortunately the big sheet I had bought to write “Free Hugs” was in one of the bags my friends carried and hence I was left with no sheets. What I did was this at around 11 pm. I collected two card board covers of domino pizza that people had eaten and made the inner brown sides my free hugs board. I wrote on it “Free Hugs” in very big bold uppercase letters and waited till 12 am.

At 12 am, I took a few pictures and videos for one or two minutes. I wished “Happy new year” to the people around me and immediately opened my free hugs board. At 12:03 or 12:04 am, people started dispersing and I kept shouting “Free Hugs”.

The crowd which was initially busy in taking pictures and sharing the moments with their family and loved ones, started to see my little message. Initially people were afraid of a stranger with the free hugs board that was made up of some low-class card board sheets. They doubted me. But after two-three minutes people started hugging me.

I have written several blog posts on hugging. I love hugging. Hugging is almost a universal symbol of physical intimacy. A hug can indicate love, affection, care, support, friendship, brotherhood, sympathy, comfort, consolation, happiness, joy, and emotional warmth. I hug for several of these factors. A hug brings some sorta closeness between two living things. I have hugged kids, seniors, friends, strangers, beautiful girls, trees, my dream girl (my favorite hug till date), relatives, childhood favorite dog, and my childhood favorite cow. If I had a lover, I would have hugged her at least for 15 minutes everyday. With every hug, a person feels loved and gives love. There is also a study that shows hugs increase levels of oxytocin and reduce blood pressure. Due to all these reasons, I love hugging and being hugged. But, in the present world, hugging is no longer free which makes me wonder and dream about that imaginary land called Shangri la where everyone hugs everyone with love and affection and live happily.

Anyway, coming back to my story, people started hugging me. Students, seniors, beautiful girls, and a few kids hugged me. Hugs were different. One was long, one was short, one was romantic, one was awkward for formality sake, one was so genuine, one was for a picture, and so on. Every hug had an intention. But my intention was only one. Hugging makes both me and people happy. Hence I saw myself as a servant to make people happy by giving out free hugs and genuinely good wishes for their lives.

Hugs. Just by saying the word itself something truly fascinating thing happens in my mind. I feel like I am melting away. Hugs by anyone is special. But hugging beautiful girls is very very special for me. I am a big fan of beautiful girls and awesome scientists. (Somehow science till date has not been able to formalize the concepts of beauty. It is still an open problem.) Therefore, I would like to share a few memorable anecdotes where I got divine opportunities to hug beautiful girls.

In one romantic incident, a beautiful girl came to me and hugged me. I gave her a warm hug and said “Happy new year. Always be happy. :)” She gave me a big smile and asked for a picture. Her friend took her picture with me and her friend got a picture too. Then they left. I believe the girl somehow was not satisfied with a single hug. She came back and hugged me before I could even recognize her. Of course I hugged her again. It would be boring to wish the same statement again and again. Hence this time I said “Happy new year again. Let all your wishes and dreams come true”. Smilingly she stepped back and asked “Can I hug you again from a distance?” How can I say “No” to a hug and especially when it is from a gorgeous girl. I said “Yes”. She went back for around 10 meters. She came running and hugged me. The impulse with which she hugged me itself showed the affection she had. I could not stop myself from drowning in an infinite ocean of sheer joy and gratefulness. I saw a part of myself in her who is insatiable with any number of hugs. Stupid me, I even forgot to take a picture with her and ask her name. Now she seeks existence only in my imagination.

In another incident, a beautiful girl came to me and hugged me. I hugged her with a genuine smile and said “Happy new year. Always be happy.” Generally when I wish people, they unhug (not sure if this word exists or not) me and wish me back. But, this mysterious girl did not move her arms away. It was still tight around my neck and waist. She replied to my wish, saying “Thanks. Tell me more.” I was taken aback by her boldness and cool at the moment of hugging a total stranger. At the same time, I was very happy for the fact that she trusted me totally. I shot my second statement “Let all your wishes and dreams come true” and curiously waited for her reply. I must praise her for her mental cool and presence of mind when she said “Nice. Tell me something more.” Wow! Our attention increases dramatically when we encounter surprising moments / events. Big and good surprises are memorable. This was one such surprise for me. The processor in my brain started computing heavily to prepare for 1000 more statements to bombard her whenever she replied the golden statement “Tell me something more.” “May happiness shower on you and may you be very successful in whatever you do.”, I said. Reply was of course “More.” Then I said “Always think of positive thoughts because whatever we think becomes reality.” I had learned this concept from my favorite book “The power of your subconscious mind” by Joseph Murphy. This statement of me surprised her and she unhugged me and stepped back a bit. Her eyes were wide open. She did a good glance at my face and she said “You are good.” She wished me for the new year and left smiling.

A token of affection / appreciation is important in life. I hugged may be around 40 – 50 people for a total of 50 minutes. Though I hugged so many people, I totally forgot to take a couple of pictures with them for my memories. (If you see my hug pictures on Internet please do let me know.) One girl asked me “Only free hugs? Not free kisses?” I was confused and I smiled like a fool. A senior couple hugged me too. May be their children stayed far from them. In a funny incident, I showed my free hugs board to a few cops. They liked it and smiled. Two NYPD cops were walking and I showed them my little board. The cop in the front had a damn serious face and he looked at my board and ignored me. The cop at the back gave me a thumbs up and smilingly pointed his index finger to the cop in his front to mean “Nice dude! Give a free hug to this serious guy. He badly needs it.” I giggled thinking that even tough cops can be super funny. Finally, after all my free hugs, I took the 1:42 am train back to my lovely place Stony Brook and reached my home at around 4 am.

Resolution
It is good to take resolutions every year. I take resolutions every year. Once, I took a resolution like “I will study harder than the previous year and I will take this resolution every year”. Ever since, my major resolution every year is to study more and harder than the previous year as I strongly believe education (or learning) is the panacea or the ultimate algorithm to solve all problems in the world. Hmmm… So many thoughts and so many experiences. In this way, I welcomed and celebrated the arrival of the new year 2015. Let this year bring more happiness, more peace, more success, more learnings, more calmness, and more love to all. Enjoy. :)

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